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IN THE NAME OF ALLAH!                137
mouth were wide, and the nose'somewhat prominent. His dress was simpler than his position in life called for. He had been a merchant and had made a name in many towns for perfect integrity, fair dealing and absolute reliability. He had taken merchandise in the camel caravans as far off as Syria. Year after year his long line of plodding camels had made their way with measured steps across undulating, tawny sand-dunes and over rocky gorges, carrying great loads of goods which the black-turbaned caravan leader would sell in distant markets. At night, while his men lay sleeping, Muhammed would wander off by himself and sit for a while on the soft desert floor to reflect upon the mysteries of life and the nature of God. And the mystic stars threw their silver rays upon his solitary upturned face, bathing it in their own mystery, and marked him for their own child of destiny.
After his marriage to the widow Khadjia, he developed more and more a habit of profound meditation upon the gravest topics of human existence. It was thus that he became so grievously aware of the shortcomings of the crude religion of his time, and of its inability to satisfy the deeper instincts of his fellow-men. At last he turned to his favourite retreat—a lonely cave on Mount Hira, near the city of Mecca—and there spent an entire night lifting his heart until dawn in piteous prayer to the Infinite, not asking selfishly for personal illumination alone, but also on behalf of his people. Prayer passed after a time into entranced vision, and vision into transformation, and transformation into conscious communion with God. Veil after veil was rent asunder. Strange paradox—that he should find luminous Truth inside that gloomy cave! And a Voice came unto him and said: "Thou art the Man. Thou art the Prophet of Allah!" Henceforth, the merchant, Muhammed, accepted the mantle which had been proffered him, deserted his bales of merchandise, and became the new Sayer of the Word, that Word whose echo would rumble over three continents within one century.
The Sibylline oracles of Rome had announced the future coming of Christ, and were thereafter silent. Christ came eventually, spoke His words to such as cared to hear Him, and then departed at an age when most men have hardly found their place in material life, let alone in spiritual life. Less than six hundred years after this event there came this other Prophet of the Unknown God.